Senate supports asking voters to repeal ban on bilingual education

Senate supports asking voters to repeal ban on bilingual education
Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), shown in 2013, has proposed that voters repeal Proposition 227, which requires schools to teach in English. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

The state Senate voted Tuesday to ask California voters to repeal a ban on bilingual education in the state, saying children in other countries are successfully learning multiple languages.

The senate voted to put a measure on the ballot in November 2016 that would repeal major parts of Proposition 227, the 1998 ballot measure approved by voters that requires schools to teach in English.

“Children who participate in multilingual programs not only outperform their peers, they also have higher earning potential when they enter the workforce,” said Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who authored SB 1174. The bill was approved 27 to 8 and next goes to the Assembly for consideration.

He called the status quo "linguistic tyranny, where we [politicians] decide what language our kids are going to learn."

The bill divided Republicans, with Senate GOP leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar supporting the measure for giving school districts local control “so innovation can take place.”

But eight other Republicans, including Sen. Jim Nielsen of Gerber, voted against the bill, saying it would worsen the state’s high drop-out rate,  which is partly caused by a large number of students being unable to read and understand English.

"You are putting children out who are functionally illiterate in two languages," Nielsen said of bilingual education. "English is the common language of this country. It is how we do business all over the world."

Sen. Mark Wyland (R-Escondido) also voted against the bill. "I can't take the chance that a single child's life will be compromised in any way by a lack of fluency in English," he said.